It's a stunning July afternoon on the Italian island of Capri. A young couple are sipping prosecco at their hotel's roof-top terrace overlooking a beautiful harbour. There's romance in the air!
We had booked a short birthday break on impulse a week before and had just taken off.
That's how we planned most of our regular holidays.
It was that easy.
We sat there admiring the view, saying nothing (because that's what young lovers can do) people watching and drooling over superyachts leaving the harbour.
Then, like a burning meteorite hurtling out of the sky, came this...
"Do you ever want to have children?" the birthday girl suddenly says.
"What!" I almost choke.
"I haven't thought about it," I blurt.
"Do you want another drink," I splutter as I head swiftly towards the bar.
Now, fast-forward seven years if you will. Twin two-year-olds are now on the scene and again it's mother's birthday. But this time we're not celebrating on the sun-blushed island of Capri in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
We're in a playground in Southwark and it's only 9am.
Mother and father aren't saying much to each other; that's what happens when two people don't want to talk to each other.
And that's also what happens when daddy doesn't plan anything for mother's birthday.
No croissants for breakfast, no breakfast in bed. Nothing.
I had even got my own mother to buy the birthday presents (and wrap them) and birthday cards (which I signed, come on!)
In my defence I claim that as stay-at-home dad I simply haven't had the time or opportunity to buy the birthday presents.
But that doesn't wash.
She has 'Online Delivery' and 'Amazon' clearly tattooed across her forehead, even though she isn't looking at me!
But all is not lost. There will be a birthday I nervously announce.
But that's only because mother made a last minute booking at the Stress Exchange for a 3.5 hour session of facial, nail, blowdrying and whatever else treatments; plus afternoon tea at the Savoy no less (booked months ago, but not by me, of course).
So to properly kick-off her birthday, here's what mother was looking forward to at her 9.30am appointment:
A blissful morning comprising chiefly of laying down listening to dolphin music, being pampered, reading glossy mags, sipping green tea and saying absolutely nothing. Marvellous.
And here's what I was thinking about my impending morning's proceedings, but dare not say:
Three and a half hours of me (unfit and starving) chasing E-Man and Bell around a playground, away from dogs, poo and puddles. AGAIN!
"Happy Birthday darling," I smiled as we dropped mother off for her morning of not moving and then wheeled the buggy around into the general direction of the playground again!
Now, fast-forward again if you will 3.5 hours and mother walks through the front door of our once gleaming two-bed flat.
She's looking radiant and here's why:
In 3.5 hours she's had:
A warm greeting from an adult and enjoyed green tea A manicure A pedicure Another green tea (declined a glass of wine! WINE!) A facial Had her hair blow-dried in preparation for our big afternoon date at the Savoy
After 3.5 hours here's how I've fared:
I'm exhausted and feel like utter s**t! I secretly would rather have my usual absolutely crucial 20-minute lunchtime nap than go to the Savoy for tea and crumpets
Nevertheless, I used the moment to my advantage and managed to piggyback on mother's relaxed mood by producing my sole birthday present.
A bunch of flowers!
Yellow roses from M&S (not purchased by mother-in-law) and chosen by E-Man, which was a cunning plan as in the event that the flowers were "more suited for a funeral" I could escape the blame.
Yes indeed, all a far cry from previous birthdays spent at exotic destinations like Capri. Our regular holidays had been replaced by stress-fuelled, last minute, throw cash at treats spent without each other. We were now practically strangers. The mere mention of more children raises interesting debates!
But what keeps our heads above the raging water is the realisation that fun birthdays and exciting family holidays are only just around the corner.
They're on hold. For about seven years!
Indeed my own father recounts to me all the sacrifices he and my mother had to make while raising three boisterous young boys. Their nights out together were few and far between, they went years not seeing their friends much and found their exhilarating holidays to New York were being replaced by trips to Brighton Butlins.
But that's the sacrifice we all have to make when we have children.
For a while anyway.
For now it really is a case of accepting that you can only have one glass of champagne at the Savoy during afternoon tea as a drunken drift into a second could produce nasty results; carnage at the children's bath time, an inability to read Thomas the Tank Engine just before lights out and a real chance of sleeping through a screaming toddler baying for water at 3am.
I really do look forward to holidays together as a young family. They're coming soon. A family camping holiday does actually sound better than being ripped-off at a trendy city centre café.
And as for mother and father's romantic getaways together, alone.
We'll be doing them again someday soon.
Unless I have to do the booking!
Do you miss how you spent your holidays before having children? Or are family holidays a truly magical experience? Do let me know?